Aurora’s Gay­lord ho­tel, now 70 per­cent com­plete, is set to open in late 2018.

The mas­sive project south­west of Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port will open in late 2018

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Ru­bino

It seems only fit­ting a project the size and scope of the Gay­lord Rock­ies Re­sort and Con­ven­tion Cen­ter should be home to a re­ally big TV.

And the mega­ho­tel cast­ing long shad­ows over the prairie as it rises near Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port in north­ern Aurora cer­tainly won’t dis­ap­point in that re­gard when it opens to guests late next year.

In­side the re­sort’s 24,000-square-foot Moun­tain Pass sports bar — one of its 10 din­ing and drink­ing es­tab­lish­ments — will re­side the largest in­door LED screen in Colorado. At 75 feet long and 14 feet tall, the screen will be too big to broad­cast a sin­gle im­age with­out dis­tor­tion. In­stead, the long screen will break down into three huge screens or in­fi­nite com­bi­na­tions of smaller ones, ac­cord­ing to David Bray, the vice pres­i­dent of ar­chi­tec­ture and con­struc­tion with Gay­lord builder RIDA De­vel­op­ment Corp.

“Fight nights will be very pop­u­lar,” Bray cracked when lead­ing a me­dia tour of the ho­tel’s many one-of-a-kind fea­tures Thurs­day.

Of course, the size of that screen is just one of many eye-pop­ping facts about the 1,501-room, 2 mil­lion-square-foot project that is now roughly 70 per­cent com­plete. The project, which got un­der­way early last year, is draw­ing from $800 mil­lion in funds.

Gay­lord is re­ceiv­ing $84.1 mil­lion in state Re­gional Tourism Act funds and an es­ti­mated $300 mil­lion in tax breaks from Aurora and other lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

One sign of the project’s progress: At the height of con­struc­tion, there were 12 cranes in op­er­a­tion. On Thurs­day, there were four.

Per­haps most ex­cit­ing for Aurora eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment folks (and heart­burn-in­duc­ing for other Front Range hote­liers and event plan­ners): By the end of Septem­ber, Gay­lord Rock­ies has al­ready booked more than 600,000 in­di­vid­ual room nights be­tween 2019 and 2028.

Those book­ings, be­ing made by groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions plan­ning to use at least some of the com­plex’s 485,000 square feet of con­ven­tion space, be­gin Feb. 1, 2019. Michael Kof­sky, the ho­tel’s di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing, said that will give the re­sort a few months’ buf­fer be­tween open­ing and first big book­ings to work out any kinks. Small groups and sin­gle-room guests will be in­vited to stay dur­ing that time, with on­line reser­va­tions ex­pected to open in late July. It’s a prime op­por­tu­nity

for cu­ri­ous peo­ple to check out the re­sort’s in­door-out­door heated lazy river and two heated pools.

The aquat­ics area, along with the fit­ness cen­ter, is one of two fea­tures of the Gay­lord Rock­ies that will be re­served for guests only when the ho­tel opens, Kof­sky said.

Bray said work­ers on site, an av­er­age of 1,400 on any given day, fin­ished the process to seal off the in­te­rior from the weather around Thanks­giv­ing, mean­ing in­te­rior work will now con­tinue un­abated. Bray said 79 sub­con­trac­tors are work­ing on the project.

“For them to find qual­i­fied la­bor has prob­a­bly been the big­gest chal­lenge in con­struc­tion,” Bray said.

While rooms in the ho­tel are just now get­ting their car­pet­ing and wall fin­ish­ing, a pair of model rooms in a nearby sales of­fice gives a taste of the Colorado fla­vor the Gay­lord chain is bring­ing to the fa­cil­ity. Rooms fea­ture aspen tree wall­pa­per and artis­tic ren­der­ings of moose and bears on the walls.

The cen­ter­piece of the project is its Grand Lodge en­try­way. It fea­tures a 9story, self-sup­port­ing glass win­dow ori­ented toward the Den­ver skyline and houses a caboose car that once rode on the Sante Fe rail­road.

Gay­lord’s open­ing will kick off even more con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity. Bray said that RIDA ex­pects to start con­struc­tion on a phased, mixed-use de­vel­op­ment on 130 acres it owns around the ho­tel in mid-2019.

It’s an early es­ti­mate, but Kof­sky shared one other im­por­tant stat Thurs­day: For groups, the ho­tel’s ad­ver­tised rate will be about $230 per room plus re­sort fee.

Con­struc­tion con­tin­ues on the 1,501-room Gay­lord Rock­ies Re­sort and Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

The re­sort has booked more than 600,000 in­di­vid­ual room nights be­tween 2019 and 2028.

Con­struc­tion crews work on the in­te­rior of the Grand Lodge. Its en­try­way is nine sto­ries high.

An av­er­age of 1,400 work­ers on any given day are help­ing to fin­ish the 1,501-room, 2 mil­lion-square-foot project.

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